0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak
0:36 - Ignacio Leiva discusses the vaping and smoking situation in Chile
6:24 - Chilean vaping activists succeed in influencing legislatures and political entities
14:58 - Quit or die attitudes from government have failed smokers
19:41 - Closing remarks
Joanna: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN TV. In today's program, we talk with Ignacio Leiva about the smoking and vaping situation in Chile. Ignacio is a multimedia journalist, founder and president of AsoVape, Chile, and has been a pro Vaping activist since 2010 and representative of the community Chile no fuma, vapea. Thank you, Ignacio, for joining us today. For viewers who don't know you, what do you do and what is your history with safer nicotine products?
Ignacio: Well, first of all, I'm an ex smoker. I used to smoke a lot. I was smoking two packs a day. I tried every single way to stop smoking, and none of them worked for me. I was smoking from very early age, from eleven until 29. I went through everything nicotine speeches, nicotine guns, I went even to hypnosis, when they hypnotize you to stop smoking, nothing works. And in 29 I was lucky and I had the opportunity to try an electronic cigarette with their very early technologies, with the cigarettes. And when I tried, I said maybe this will work. Two days after that moment I quit smoking, I start vaping. And now it has been like 13 years without going back for cigarettes. So first I'm an ex smoker and a user of electronic cigarettes. In 2010, we needed to face the possibility that the government banned cigarettes in Chile. It was in the same times between 2010 and 2013 that they banned these cigarettes in Brazil, in Argentina, in Uruguay. That was the time that even New Zealand was getting the cigarettes banned, the e-cigarettes ban. And in that moment I said there is no way, no one would take from me the only thing that worked and it could save a lot of lives. So I became kind of an activist by force. And I feel that if I was not the one to fight, no one will. In that moment, there was not much people vaping. That was a campaign of communications, trying to not let the minister to ban the e-cigarette, they put on until a decree with force of law coming from the minister of health, where they put the nicotine under the hands of pharma. The only institution available to sell nicotine in Chile are the pharmaceuticals. So what it came from that is that no one sells nicotine, because Pharma obviously don't want us to vape. So we have that problem in Chile. Then I continue creating or trying to create community that could be informed about Vaping, because we kind of knew that in some moment this will came back and we'll need a strong community well-informed. So we create a community that is called Chile no fuma, vapea. Its main objective was, as I said, inform the people and create conscience that there could be problems in the future. But also it was a community to help new people, how to go through in the process of changing from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. And that was the main staff. In 2018, again we faced one senator said that he wanted to ban against e-cigarettes. He was not able, but he presented a project of law very against harm reduction options, especially vaping. This is a law affecting vaping, trying to put in the same place vaping and smoking. And that moment we realized that as a non official community it will be very difficult to fight this process. So then we create the associations of consumers in Chile and we have been working with that from 2019, I think we're able to create it and we have been doing a lot. We were the first country to make public manifestation supporting vaping in front of the Minister of Health in that moment. And we have been handling campaigns to inform the people, but also we have been connecting with the politicians and the people that it's on the legislature, the legislations. And we are actually in that moment where we are trying to have regulations that look at the electronic cigarettes as a harm reduction product and for cure, not trying to put it in the same place than e-cigarettes. So in resume what I am and it's the way that I like to feel I am just user of e-cigarettes I feel I'm just one more but we're playing in with others to do the best that we can to find a good population.
Ignacio: Well, the actual situation in Chile, I would say that it's kind of positive. We came, as I told you before, from this project of law coming from the Senator chamber, that it's very bad through vaping. But now that project get out of the Senator chamber and now it's being discussed in the chamber of 15, the Commission of Health and in that place we were able to change the mind of many of the deputies and I don't like the word, but I think it's the most accurate. We are fighting to make some change and we have been able to change much of that project of law. Like we were able to change some articles that have to do with advertisement that they were trying to totally forbid, but at the same time there was a high intention to censor tip the information about the difference between vaping and smoking. Also even users to talk about it in the social medias. And we were able to make some changes in that aspect. Now we are exactly during the process where the commission is discussing every single article. The last article that we had to discuss was well, not we the deputies have to discuss, but we were in contact with them was about the warnings in the packaging that the executive present a very bad article that was not only putting it in the same level than cigarettes, it was very hard, like, 50% of the boxes with messages about the risks. The risks that we don't know what are the risks, but they talk about the risk of stuff or Vaping doing it. Like, the same with cigarettes. And we were able to counter that. And the last article said that electronic cigarettes will have only 20% and only with one warning that it will be that this product would contain nicotine and that it's addictive or it could be addictive for the users. And the next weeks we took place two other more commissions in one of them it will be a very important discussion for us where they are trying to restrain the amount of liquid that you could sell. They want to put every single liquid with a maximum of ten MLS so you won't be able to sell bottles more than ten MLS and also put a maximum amount of milligram of nicotine per ML that they want to put it on 20. We are trying to change that to 60 bottle and in a maximum of nicotine of 50 thinking that the people that are using pots and small electronic cigarettes, the 20 milligrams are not enough to have a successfully option to electronic cigarettes. Sorry to quit smoking by using electronic cigarettes.
Joanna: Please tell us more about your association. What are your strategies?
Ignacio: Well, actually the community have worked and answer in a very good way and one of the things that we were able to do was to ask the users to send emails. We create web application that let the users send email but they were writing the email. It's not like a bot to send an email from their own accounts to the deputies that were going to take the decision. We were able to send them more than 9000 emails and they were real emails, not like a bot like click here and you send an email. They were all different with the experience of its user. And that, I think, was one of the things that really picked the attention of deputies, to understand that they were really affecting a lot a lot of people. That they are not only affecting the users of electronic cigarettes, they were going to affect all those millions of people that smoked. Now, that could have a very big benefit on their life through vaping. And I would say that that response of the community that it was awesome, just funny stuff. Some of the emails of the deputies collapsed because of the amount of emails that they were receiving. Also during that weekend we were planning topic three days, all the hours on Chile about vaping it's not smoking. So this kind of stuff makes this sweet that sometimes it's so difficult to make the authority to understand how much they could affect in the wrong way the life of so many people and there we could saw a very big change, fundamentality of many of them. And that I think it was one of the most important moments of our fight. At the same time on that Tuesday this happened during the weekend and on Tuesday was the first commission of help in the chamber's deputy talking about the project. And that day we made again public manifestation in front of the chamber of deputies. So we were able to really show them that it's not as they said, that this is the very big tobacco, the one that is behind all this stuff. We were able to show them and to let them know that it has nothing to do with the tobacco. And here we are just trying to save our lives and the ones that are coming. And we have done other stuff like campaigns of information through the media, but also some campaigns that are in the real world to put it in some way. We have made some experiments bringing people that smoke, offering them the possibility of switching to vaping. We give them all the product needed and we were recording their process from the beginning from real smokers. We were not expecting such good results because we picked five very complicated people. We were trying to focus on people that really really have problems, not to get someone that you think that he will quit even with no help. We take very hard situation. We took five and those five with someone following them and helping them as it should be from the government. All of them are still vaping barely one year after we have tried many stuff. But the ones that I thought the beginning, I bet that coming from the community was the most important thing to make a change. In the point of view of the legislature.
Joanna: With all your activities, do you expect the government to take positive steps and help people access safer alternatives to smoking?
Ignacio: The word expectation, it's different than what they choose. I think they choose what the government should do is to obviously, in my point of view, use electronic cigarettes and other THR options as a tool to fight against smoking. There is nothing better than vaping to quit smoking for those people who can't or don't want to switch to quit: vaping is the best option. The political point of view of quit or die have totally failed in our country and we are the second country in Latin America with higher amount of people smoking and with the higher amount of women smoking. So that's what they should do badly. My expectations from the government are very low. They are from the very old point of view of tobacco control groups. We know that there are people very connected to the actual government and the actual minister directly connected with Tobacco for Kids and the foundations of who that are putting a lot of money in misinformation and making a lot of problem and that people is very connected to the people that is leading the discussion coming from the executive, from the government. The good thing is that the deputies, a very big part of the deputies understood that this is not that easy. That most of the information that they are getting, it's not accurate, at least to be very soft with my words, not accurate. And some of them are totally not accurate and maybe even manipulated. And they know it now. They are very aware about the situation in England or in New Zealand. So they are not that blind as we used to see in other places where the fight looks so difficult because there is no way to connect with them and let them know what's the real thing that the science is telling today. You can see until now people from the tobacco control area talking about the harm that the cigarettes could produce in the heart. And when you go and ask why they are saying that, they said that it's in a study of Stanton glands and we know that that study was totally fake. They know that it's fake, but they continue talking stuff that we all know that they are. In these cases, I will totally say that we all know that it's not true. In the case of the studies of Stanton glands, the ones with metals on ecigarettes, they keep using that stuff. What I'm expecting or what I want is that finally the science goes over the misinformation and at least for now, until that, it's advancing in a very good way. My expectations is that if we can, we could get more fair legislation that obviously protects the youth, the young people, but not forgetting about the adults that are dying today because of the cigarettes and giving them this option of using alternatives that are away long less damaging than smoke.
Joanna: Thank you, Ignacio. This was the first part of our interview with Ignacio. In the second part, Ignacio will tell us about smoking and vaping in Latin America. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.